News: Enabling the Disabled

It's not only cheaper than you'd think; it might be profitable

 
Jymi Bolden


Countering myths about people with disabilities is a continuing challenge, according to Peg Gutsell of the Inclusion Network.



The fact that Peg Gutsell was born unable to see doesn't mean she has superhuman hearing. "I've certainly trained myself to listen carefully," says Gutsell, co-director of the Inclusion Network. "It's not true that I inherited better hearing or a better memory because I was born not being able to see."

Something else Gutsell doesn't have is a four-legged assistant.

"Everywhere I go, people ask me where my dog is," she says.

Some assume that all people with visual impairments have guide dogs.

Overcoming preconceived notions about disabilities continues to require serious effort, according to Sandy Kerlin, the other co-director of the Inclusion Network.

"We spend a lot of our days and time dispelling myths," she says.

Some assume, for example, that people with disabilities have more in common with other disabled people than with the rest of the public. Gutsell says she's frequently asked if she knows "so and so" — a person with a visual impairment — simply because she's visually impaired, too.

Gutsell says people sometimes worry about using words that relate to a person's impairment. When people ask if she "saw" something on television, they quickly correct themselves and ask if she heard it. But using the word "see" doesn't upset her.

"Though you might not have the physical sense, these words don't hurt to hear," Gutsell says. "People with disabilities are not, by and large, fragile."

People are sometimes surprised that the disabled can talk about their impairments with humor and honesty.

"Having a disability isn't a tragedy," Gutsell says. "It poses some different challenges, but in general it's certainly not a tragedy."

One thing the Bengals got right
The Inclusion Network, a non-profit group started in 1993, works with organizations, individuals and businesses to ensure that people with disabilities can enjoy the same opportunities as others.

"We work from a positive — we aren't the compliance police," Gutsell says.

Kerlin wants people to realize that disability is just one dimension of a person; it doesn't define who they are.

When Gutsell was in elementary school in the 1950s, her mother was advised to send her to a boarding school for disabled students. But her mother insisted Gutsell return home from school every day.

Awareness of the needs and potential of people with disabilities has improved, according to Gutsell.

"There's a lot more interest in people with diverse backgrounds and talents," she says.

Even so, in the past year people have called the Inclusion Network saying they have children with disabilities and had been advised to send the children to institutions and never look back.

The Inclusion Network doesn't just work with disabled people.

"Whenever we do a project, we try to partner with somebody in the community that does not make disability their business," Kerlin says.

The Inclusion Network recently worked with those planning the groundbreaking of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to ensure special seating and a sign language interpreter for those who need them.

Helping people with disabilities isn't just for their benefit. Kerlin points out that picture menus designed to assist people with disabilities also help older people, those who don't speak English and small children. In the end, a special menu helps a business' profits.

"Folks are recognizing just how much discretionary income people with disabilities have to spend," Gutsell says. "Certainly any business wants their share of that kind of money."

Curb cuts in sidewalks are designed to help those who use wheelchairs, but delivery men and people pushing strollers also use them.

Gutsell says Paul Brown Stadium visitors often comment on how much they like the cup-holders on their seats. This idea, she says, came out of a focus group with the Inclusion Network. A woman with cerebral palsy was concerned it would be hard to hold her drink through an entire game.

Uncovering hidden treasures
Workplace inclusion is also something the Inclusion Network encourages. The lack of labor-force participation by people with disabilities costs the economy of the United States more than $300 billion annually, according to the Inclusion Network's pamphlet, "What Is Workplace Inclusion?"

"Each year the federal government spends 40 times more money to support people with disabilities not working than it spends to assist them to prepare for employment," the pamphlet says.

Kerlin says many companies worry that making adaptations to help disabled employees will cost large amounts of money.

"In reality, most accommodations cost less than $500," she says.

In one case, a woman of short stature asked her employer to help with an accommodation. The company was worried about the cost. In the end, all she wanted was an inexpensive footstool to place under her desk.

The Inclusion Network has been working with the League of Women Voters to encourage citizens with disabilities to vote. Some polling places have access limitations. Poll workers might not know how to assist those who need help casting a vote.

The League of Women Voters has conducted a voter training workshop, and in the past three years more than 500 people with disabilities have registered to vote.

The Inclusion Network maintains an information line for referrals and connections. It offers diversity training and provides speakers on the topic of inclusion.

Gutsell says the Inclusion Network helps businesses and organizations holding public events make them welcoming to people with disabilities. The organization also works with businesses on employee recruitment and customer service for those with disabilities.

The group tries to engage others to broaden the impact of its work.

"The minute we get a phone call, we partner and network with someone who can work with us to make it happen," Kerlin says. "When you start to work on one of these projects, the coalition typically just keeps growing."

So far this year 175,000 people have been impacted by information or services provided by the network, according to Kerlin.

Unlike being born a member of a minority racial group, being a minority as a person with a disability can begin at any time.

"Disability is something that can kind of change in peoples' lives," Gutsell says.

Hidden Treasures, a CD tribute to Cincinnati's King Records, has been organized as a benefit for the Inclusion Network.

King began in 1943, owned by Syd Nathan. King Records was the first record label to consciously mix black and white forms of music, according to literature from the Inclusion Network.

"Nathan's philosophy for prosperity through diversification didn't begin and end at the studio door," the literature says. "Himself vision impaired and living with asthma, he hired employees 'for ability, and ability has no color, no race and no religion.' "

King Records attracted Rhythm & Blues, Blues, Bluegrass and Country talent.

To order the Hidden Treasures CD or get a list of retailers, visit

 
Jymi Bolden


Countering myths about people with disabilities is a continuing challenge, according to Peg Gutsell of the Inclusion Network.



The fact that Peg Gutsell was born unable to see doesn't mean she has superhuman hearing. "I've certainly trained myself to listen carefully," says Gutsell, co-director of the Inclusion Network. "It's not true that I inherited better hearing or a better memory because I was born not being able to see."

Something else Gutsell doesn't have is a four-legged assistant.

"Everywhere I go, people ask me where my dog is," she says.

Some assume that all people with visual impairments have guide dogs.

Overcoming preconceived notions about disabilities continues to require serious effort, according to Sandy Kerlin, the other co-director of the Inclusion Network.

"We spend a lot of our days and time dispelling myths," she says.

Some assume, for example, that people with disabilities have more in common with other disabled people than with the rest of the public. Gutsell says she's frequently asked if she knows "so and so" — a person with a visual impairment — simply because she's visually impaired, too.

Gutsell says people sometimes worry about using words that relate to a person's impairment. When people ask if she "saw" something on television, they quickly correct themselves and ask if she heard it. But using the word "see" doesn't upset her.

"Though you might not have the physical sense, these words don't hurt to hear," Gutsell says. "People with disabilities are not, by and large, fragile."

People are sometimes surprised that the disabled can talk about their impairments with humor and honesty.

"Having a disability isn't a tragedy," Gutsell says. "It poses some different challenges, but in general it's certainly not a tragedy."

One thing the Bengals got right
The Inclusion Network, a non-profit group started in 1993, works with organizations, individuals and businesses to ensure that people with disabilities can enjoy the same opportunities as others.

"We work from a positive — we aren't the compliance police," Gutsell says.

Kerlin wants people to realize that disability is just one dimension of a person; it doesn't define who they are.

When Gutsell was in elementary school in the 1950s, her mother was advised to send her to a boarding school for disabled students. But her mother insisted Gutsell return home from school every day.

Awareness of the needs and potential of people with disabilities has improved, according to Gutsell.

"There's a lot more interest in people with diverse backgrounds and talents," she says.

Even so, in the past year people have called the Inclusion Network saying they have children with disabilities and had been advised to send the children to institutions and never look back.

The Inclusion Network doesn't just work with disabled people.

"Whenever we do a project, we try to partner with somebody in the community that does not make disability their business," Kerlin says.

The Inclusion Network recently worked with those planning the groundbreaking of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center to ensure special seating and a sign language interpreter for those who need them.

Helping people with disabilities isn't just for their benefit. Kerlin points out that picture menus designed to assist people with disabilities also help older people, those who don't speak English and small children. In the end, a special menu helps a business' profits.

"Folks are recognizing just how much discretionary income people with disabilities have to spend," Gutsell says. "Certainly any business wants their share of that kind of money."

Curb cuts in sidewalks are designed to help those who use wheelchairs, but delivery men and people pushing strollers also use them.

Gutsell says Paul Brown Stadium visitors often comment on how much they like the cup-holders on their seats. This idea, she says, came out of a focus group with the Inclusion Network. A woman with cerebral palsy was concerned it would be hard to hold her drink through an entire game.

Uncovering hidden treasures
Workplace inclusion is also something the Inclusion Network encourages. The lack of labor-force participation by people with disabilities costs the economy of the United States more than $300 billion annually, according to the Inclusion Network's pamphlet, "What Is Workplace Inclusion?"

"Each year the federal government spends 40 times more money to support people with disabilities not working than it spends to assist them to prepare for employment," the pamphlet says.

Kerlin says many companies worry that making adaptations to help disabled employees will cost large amounts of money.

"In reality, most accommodations cost less than $500," she says.

In one case, a woman of short stature asked her employer to help with an accommodation. The company was worried about the cost. In the end, all she wanted was an inexpensive footstool to place under her desk.

The Inclusion Network has been working with the League of Women Voters to encourage citizens with disabilities to vote. Some polling places have access limitations. Poll workers might not know how to assist those who need help casting a vote.

The League of Women Voters has conducted a voter training workshop, and in the past three years more than 500 people with disabilities have registered to vote.

The Inclusion Network maintains an information line for referrals and connections. It offers diversity training and provides speakers on the topic of inclusion.

Gutsell says the Inclusion Network helps businesses and organizations holding public events make them welcoming to people with disabilities. The organization also works with businesses on employee recruitment and customer service for those with disabilities.

The group tries to engage others to broaden the impact of its work.

"The minute we get a phone call, we partner and network with someone who can work with us to make it happen," Kerlin says. "When you start to work on one of these projects, the coalition typically just keeps growing."

So far this year 175,000 people have been impacted by information or services provided by the network, according to Kerlin.

Unlike being born a member of a minority racial group, being a minority as a person with a disability can begin at any time.

"Disability is something that can kind of change in peoples' lives," Gutsell says.

Hidden Treasures, a CD tribute to Cincinnati's King Records, has been organized as a benefit for the Inclusion Network.

King began in 1943, owned by Syd Nathan. King Records was the first record label to consciously mix black and white forms of music, according to literature from the Inclusion Network.

"Nathan's philosophy for prosperity through diversification didn't begin and end at the studio door," the literature says. "Himself vision impaired and living with asthma, he hired employees 'for ability, and ability has no color, no race and no religion.' "

King Records attracted Rhythm & Blues, Blues, Bluegrass and Country talent.

To order the Hidden Treasures CD or get a list of retailers, visit www.inclusion.org. ©

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